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Haunted factory throws up human remains

September 14, 2012

This photograph shows an undamaged area of a garment factory following a fire in Karachi on Sept 12, 2012. — Photo by AFP

KARACHI, Sept 13: Rescue workers at the gutted factory wrapped up their operation on Thursday after battling the deadly fire for almost 45 hours.

They recovered limbs and other parts of human bodies from the haunted industrial unit, allowing police investigators and forensic experts to start their job of ascertaining the reasons behind the incident.

A number of area people and relatives of the victims gathered outside the Ali Enterprises, chanting slogans against the ‘slow-paced operation’ by rescue organisations. Many of them entered the building to assist firefighters and charity volunteers.

“We have found a couple of limbs and some parts of human bodies from the building’s basement,” said Karachi commissioner Roshan Ali Sheikh.

“As per our data the death toll stands at 258. We will definitely conduct DNA sampling of the limbs to determine whether they were from the bodies still unidentified or of new victims. There are 82 unidentified bodies right now and we expect to complete the process of their DNA matching by tomorrow (Friday).”As the building was declared ‘clear’ by the firefighters with no more victims inside, a number of officials, investigators and political leaders visited the factory.

An investigation team, assigned by the Sindh IG, examined the building and collected evidences, saying the probe could take “some time”.

“One can’t declare it merely an accident,” said SSP West Amir Farooqi, a member of the four-man team.

“It’s an accident, arson or planned sabotage. This fact may take time to get ascertained. The police team has formally started its job with a clear mindset to ascertain the reason behind the tragedy.”

Senior officers of the Federal Investigation Agency joined the police team with a mandate given by the interior ministry but almost the same objective.

“So far the inquiry suggests that the fire originated on the first floor,” said FIA director Mohammad Malik and head of its investigation team.

“The team comprising senior officers has been formed to ascertain the cause of the fire and to establish if it was an accident or an act of arson.”

The catastrophe also set alarms bell ringing in the provincial and metropolitan departments, which are supposed to enforce safety standards and safeguard workers’ rights.

A meeting at the Karachi commissioner’s office decided to carry out an inspection of factories in the city and complete the job in three months.

“The decision was unanimously supported by associations of all five industrial estates — SITE, Korangi, Landhi, F. B. Area and North Karachi,” said Mr Sheikh.

“If any industrial unit is not found complying with safety standards, it will be told to fix the problem or face penalty that may lead to closure of the unit.” He said a common fund had been set up by the five industrial associations to be managed by the city administration to pay compensation after industrial disasters.